Canberra Centre Masthead

Love Your Work: Week Five

Trish Smith

WITH LAZY SUMMER WEEKENDS AHEAD, NOW IS THE TIME FOR A BEACH READ.

This summer, we hope you will enjoy sneaking away for half an hour or so every Friday as we bring you each new instalment of our Summer Serial – Love Your Work by first-time Canberra author, Trish Smith.

She recommends reading it in a hammock, with a large glass of iced tea nearby and your phone on silent. 

Missed out on last week or want to read the entire series up to this chapter? Click here.

This weekAre you sitting down? Because this week’s instalment has a cracker of a plot twist. Abby is back from her tropical sojourn and Patrick has a big confession to make.

And if you get to the end and can’t wait to see what happens next, you can download the whole book to your Kindle here.


CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

Abby barely slept that night, and when she did, she dreamed about a world without telephones, a world where she couldn’t accidentally overhear someone’s conversation, or call her own house and have her own phone answered by a young girl who shouldn’t be there. In a few sleepless hours she had decided that Patrick didn’t deserve the benefit of her doubt. He was up to something, first with Lauren and now some other woman, and try as she might Abby couldn’t shake the feeling that he was doing something that she would find unforgiveable.

She climbed out of bed and wandered out onto the balcony. The sun was starting to come up from behind the rainforest and Abby guessed it was about seven. She looked down the hill to the beach and watched a couple of people going through a yoga routine while someone else jogged past at a respectable pace. Abby rubbed the sleep dust out of her eyes and turned to go back inside and crawl into bed. She wasn’t ready to face the world yet. She wasn’t ready to start thinking about what she was going to do next, now that she realised everything had changed.

Abby grabbed her laptop off the side table and sat up in bed with it leaning against a pillow.

UNRECRUITED LOVE
A blog about the heart-breaking search for your one true job.

DEVELOPMENTS

Posted by Ms Love in:

Tales from the Hot Tub

– – – – – – – – – – –

When I started writing this blog a couple of years ago I never dreamed that I would be sharing anything more personal than what colour lipstick I like to wear. But over time I have relaxed a bit, and recently it has been really helpful for me to write stuff down—about losing my job, about this situation with the money and my husband. It’s good to write it down, but it’s also been really great to have the discussion happening in the comments, with you all telling me what you think I should do. I don’t always agree with your advice, but its helps me to figure out what I DO want to do. So thank you, friends. I hope you know how much your contribution here is appreciated. Please, keep giving me advice.

On that note, I have some news. I tried to call Patrick at home last night, at about one in the morning local time, and a woman whose voice I didn’t recognise picked up the phone. I have no idea who she could possibly be, or why she would be answering the phone at my house in the middle of the night.

I have to come home from this holiday in a few days, and I literally don’t know what to do. My relationship with my husband has changed forever, and I don’t know if the new version of it will see us stay together, or fall apart. I need to talk to him. I need to ask him what the hell is going on. And he’d better have a good explanation.

So this is what it feels like, when your marriage is going through one of those low points that Patrick’s dad talked about in his speech at our wedding. I can tell you it sucks. I can tell you that it’s easy to see why some people give up on their vows and just walk away.

• • •

She looked up from her laptop as Emma appeared on the balcony that connected their two rooms, wearing a bathrobe, her hair wet from a shower. “Hey, Emma, did you go for a run?”

“Nah, changed my mind about that. I heard you tapping away at your laptop and I didn’t want to interrupt you while you were writing. Are you finished? Can I read it?”

“Sure.” Abby got up and took the laptop out to Emma, who sat with it on one of the lounges. A minute or so later she looked up.

“And you’re absolutely certain that he’s not reading this?”

“Yes, I’m certain.”

“My God” she said, shaking her head. “So you called him last night, after I went to bed, and that’s when this woman answered the phone?”

“Yes.” Abby winced at the thought of it.

“Was it Lauren?”

“No. It sounded like someone much younger.”

“I don’t even know what to say, Abby. I’m stunned. I can’t believe he had someone with him. Who the hell could she be? What’s he doing?”

“I have no idea.”

“What are you going to do?”

Abby just shrugged.

“God, you poor thing. You look like you hardly slept last night. Your eyes are puffy. You need some cucumber slices or something. Hey, we should book in for facials and massages and whatever else they’re offering at the spa today. How does that sound?”

“Perfect.”

“Right. Have a quick shower, I’ll call and book us in, and we can go. Do you want something to eat first? I could do with a coffee.” Emma snapped the laptop closed and stood up to go.

“Emma, I’m so glad you’re here.” Abby started choking up. She felt completely overwhelmed all of a sudden, and very relieved that she wasn’t by herself. “I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know if I’m coming or going and my head is just a mess. What would I do without you?”

“I’ll always be here” Emma said, giving her a tight hug. “Whatever happens with Patrick or the business or whatever, I’m not going anywhere.”

Abby wiped her tears on Emma’s shoulder and took a couple of deep, cleansing breaths. “Thanks, hon.”

An hour later they were lying face down on massage tables, being rubbed and pummeled by strong hands, listening to the relaxing sounds of water cascading over rocks in the gardens around them, breathing in the scent of orchids and patchouli. Abby tried to clear her mind of all thoughts of Patrick and the girl and the money and the accountant and the business and instead tried to think about flowers and sunsets and boats floating on the water. But the boats made her think about the couple she saw on the water last night, and that led to thoughts of Henning, and that kiss.

She felt a little rush of heat and giddiness as she remembered how it had felt to kiss him. Abby had forgotten what it was like to be with somebody else, somebody new. It was like trying on a pair of new shoes, or driving someone else’s car. Eventually it would feel comfortable, but for the first little while it would feel strange. Last night it had made her feel strange in a good way—sensual and sexy—but also guilty as hell. Although now, after the phone call home, the memory of Henning just made her feel sexy. She wanted to see him again.

And then thoughts of Patrick and everything they had together would come flooding back. She couldn’t believe that he was cheating on her. There was nothing that gave her the impression that Patrick wasn’t content and happily married. They rarely argued. He was always home in time to cook dinner for them. They had frequent weekends away to visit cellar doors and stay at B&Bs. Abby had seen enough Oprah to know the tell-tale signs of a cheating spouse. She didn’t think Patrick was a cheating spouse. There simply had to be some kind of explanation.

And after they sorted it out, after the truth had been revealed and the reasons explained, would they still want to be married? What had her father-in-law said? As long as one of them wanted to make it work, they could pull the other one through. She just didn’t know which of them would be doing the hard work, and which would need to be convinced to stay.

That night, after a few hours in the spa being pampered and scrubbed and covered in oils and salts and seaweed and mud, then another couple of hours dozing on a deck chair, Abby logged in to check if anyone had responded on her blog.

UNRECRUITED LOVE
A blog about the heart-breaking search for your one true job.

Comments:

Sophie on: Developments

Oh my god. What is he up to? Did you suspect that something was going on before all this stuff with your job happened? It just seems really out of character. I say all this without actually knowing either of you in person, obviously. But putting that aside, WTF???

Mandi on: Developments

I have been reading your blog since the beginning and I love your stories and the way you tell them. I really hope this all gets sorted out and that you and Patrick can be happy again. One of my old school friends recently had a bit of a crisis with her marriage so I have some idea of what it’s like to be going through this and I really feel for you. Good luck.

Vanessa on Developments

I’m dying to hear Patrick’s explanation for all of this. It seems crazy that he would have an affair and risk everything.

KateM on: Developments

I hope you’re taking advantage of the day spa at your hotel. Are you having daily stress-relieving massages???

BrookeH on: Developments

Let me get this straight – your husband, to whom you just gave a large portion of your money, is taking advantage of the fact that you are out of the country by inviting some random chick around for a bit of fun? It doesn’t make sense.

Tracey on: Developments

You know how you were saying that you didn’t want to do anything to relinquish the moral high ground? Tell us again – why is that?

Claire on: Developments

If I was having an affair with a married man, and I was sleeping over at his house while his wife was in another country, I wouldn’t answer the phone at 1am. Just saying.

Tracey on: Developments

@Claire – good point.

Sophie on: Developments

@Claire – really good point.

Abby shut her laptop and wandered out onto the balcony to join Emma, who was sitting on the lounge in her bath robe with a glass of champagne and a tray of food.

“That smells delicious. Did you order some room service?”

“Yep. Want some? It’s their Happy Hour snack platter. Most of it is fried.” She handed Abby a small plate with a few spring rolls, dumplings and something that looked like vegetable tempura.

“This is exactly what I need after all those treatments in the spa. I need to get some crap back into my system. Thanks.” They both smiled as they raised their glasses. “Here’s to alcohol and saturated fat.”

Emma drained her glass in four gulps and sighed contentedly. “Ah, love it. We should do this regularly, Abby. We should come here once a year to recuperate and escape our busy lives.”

“You’re on.” Abby took a few big gulps of champagne and tried unsuccessfully to stifle a burp. “Oops, excuse me.” They both laughed.

“So, has anyone commented on your last blog?”

“Yeah, a few people. Most of them can’t believe he’s having an affair. Someone made a good point—if you were having an affair with a married man, would you answer his phone in the middle of the night?”

“I hadn’t thought of that.”

“Yeah. Emma, I don’t think he’s having an affair.”

“I don’t think he is either, Abby. I just can’t imagine it. But, God, I’m so curious to know what’s going on.”

“Me too.”

“Are you tempted to call him again?”

“A bit. Do you think I should?” Abby wanted to call him, but she had also thought it would be better to have that conversation in person.

“It’s up to you. Would it make any difference?”

“I suppose not. I’ll be home in a few days. I would prefer to talk to him face to face, you know? I need to see his eyes.”

“Good idea. Wait till you get home. In the meantime, just relax, don’t think about it, eat some more deep-fried whatever these things are, and try really hard not to bump into Henning.”

“Why did you have to say that?” Abby was genuinely annoyed. “We’re having a conversation about the probability that Patrick isn’t doing anything wrong, and you bring up Henning?”

“I just don’t want you doing anything that would further complicate matters. You can’t go back to Patrick and ask him if he’s been unfaithful if you’ve been getting up to no good.”

“Nothing is going on with Henning!”

“Well that’s OK then.”

“Why do I get the impression that you don’t believe me?” said Abby, exasperated.

“Why doth the lady protest too much?” Abby blushed. Bugger, she thought.

“You’re blushing” said Emma, gleefully.

“Am not.”

“Yes, you are.”

“No, I’m not.”

“Oh for Pete’s sake. Are you going to fess up or not? Because I know you’re not telling me everything.”

“There’s nothing to tell.”

“Uh-huh.” Emma was not convinced.

“Emma, there’s nothing to tell.”

“Fine.”

“Good.” Abby finished off her glass of champagne and reached for the bottle in the ice bucket. “Ready for a refresher?” She refilled their glasses and put the empty bottle upside down in the bucket. “You should’ve ordered two bottles” said Abby.

Emma smiled, producing another bottle and an ice bucket from the floor on the other side of her lounge chair. “Don’t you know me at all?”

CHAPTER NINETEEN

On Friday morning the sun and birds woke Abby up at dawn and in spite of a slight hangover she took up Emma’s offer of a run around the resort. It was already incredibly warm and humid but it felt good to be up and moving, and they both resolved to start each of their last few days on holiday with a run or some other form of exercise. That way, they reasoned, they could spend the entire weekend lying by the pool with cocktails and bar snacks and not feel too guilty.

On the weekend they wandered around the local markets, hired mountain bikes and rode around the island for a couple of hours, had massages and got their toenails painted red. They found a tailor in one of the villages who measured them both up for Thai silk dresses, which were delivered to their hotel twenty-four hours later. Emma didn’t mention Henning again, and Abby was relieved not to run into him. She assumed he must have checked out. It bothered her slightly that he hadn’t said goodbye. In fact, it bothered her quite a lot. By Tuesday afternoon her curiosity got the better of her and she walked down to the hotel’s concierge desk to ask if he was still registered, but she realised with some embarrassment that she couldn’t remember his last name.

“Can I please have some notepaper and an envelope? I need to leave a message for a guest.”

“Yes, of course.” The concierge took a sheet of paper and an envelope out of a drawer and handed them to her.

“I’m not sure which room he is staying in.”

“What name is the guest registered under, ma’am?”

“I’m not sure of that either. This is a little awkward. His first name is Henning. I think his last name starts with a ‘v’.” Abby could feel herself blushing.

“I will see if I can find him. It should just take a minute.”

“Thank you.” Abby took the pen and paper and sat down at a table in the corner of the foyer. She didn’t know what she was going to write. She just wanted to know where he had disappeared to.

Henning,

We’re leaving tomorrow morning. I was hoping to say goodbye. Perhaps we’ll see you for a drink at the bar tonight.

Abby (room 12)

As she was sealing the envelope the concierge walked over to Abby and handed her a slip of paper. “This is his name, ma’am.”

Abby looked at the name on the paper. Mr Henning Hvidberg. “Could you please deliver this to his room for me?” she asked, handing her the envelope.

“Yes, ma’am, of course. I will have it delivered immediately.”

“Thank you.” Abby went for a run before going back up to her room to find Emma snoozing on the balcony. She grabbed her laptop and went out to join her.

UNRECRUITED LOVE
A blog about the heart-breaking search for your one true job.

LAST DAYS

Posted by Ms Love in:

Tales from the Hot Tub

– – – – – – – – – – –

 I cannot believe this trip is almost over. I wish we could stay longer, especially considering poor Emma had her trip shortened because I got here earlier. But I’ve promised her we’ll do this again next year.

I’m nervous about coming home. I agree with those of you who said you don’t believe Patrick is having an affair. I don’t think he is, either. Well, I guess we’ll know the full story soon enough. And then, of course, there’s the question of what’s happening with the money. That one has really got me stumped. Although given what’s happened so far I guess nothing should surprise me.

We’re coming home tomorrow. No specific plans for our last night at the resort. I think we’ve just about run the restaurant dry of Hendrick’s so we might have to find something else to drink at cocktail hour tonight.

I want to go home, but I don’t want to go home.

• • •

Emma started to stir just as Abby was logging off. She stretched and yawned loudly before rolling over to see Abby.

“Oh, hey. I fell asleep.” Emma pulled a magazine out from underneath her, its pages all creased and folded over. “I think I killed my magazine.”

“You must have been asleep for about an hour.”

“What have you been doing?”

“Nothing much.” Abby leaned out over the railing of the balcony and looked for Henning down on the beach. “Went for a run. Then wrote a quick blog.”

“I can’t believe we’re going home tomorrow.”

“Me neither.”

“Can I ask you a question if you promise not to get angry at me?”

Abby laughed. “What do you want to ask me?” she said, knowing exactly what was coming.

“Are you going to see Henning before we go?”

“I don’t know. I just left him a note. I feel like it would be a bit rude not to say goodbye, but then again he disappeared several days ago without a word. Whatever. If I see him, I see him.” Abby scanned the beach one more time but there was no sign of him. She was a little put out but she told herself it was probably a good thing.

“What did you say he was doing here?”

“He was supposed to be having a holiday with his girlfriend.”

“I thought you said he was working on some environmental thing.”

“Yeah, he was. He is. He’s here for a few months, but he was taking a couple of weeks off to have a holiday with his girlfriend.”

“But she didn’t come” said Emma.

“No.” Abby braced herself for Emma’s next question or remark but it never came.

Instead, Emma got up from the lounge and started walking towards her suite. “Well, I’m going to take a very long shower, and then I’m going to get dressed for dinner. Meet you down at the bar in an hour?”

“Can we make it an hour and a half? I need to wash my hair.”

“Sure. See you later. Oh, hey, are you going to wear one of your new dresses? I’m going to wear my blue one, so you’d better wear your black one or we’ll look like twins.”

“OK, I’ll wear the black one. No worries.” Abby took her time getting ready for dinner. The black dress was sleeveless and perfectly tailored. At the tailor’s Abby had flipped through a book of pages torn from fashion magazines until she settled on a dress that looked like something Jessica Chastain might wear. It was made with black Thai silk and the tailor had lined it so that it felt soft and silky against her skin. The dress was essentially backless, and in the absence of the right kind of bra Abby decided she would have to go without.

She slipped her feet into the one pair of black stilettos she had brought on the trip and headed down to the bar, silently thanking Emma for insisting she wear the black dress. She had wanted to, just in case he turned up. For reasons she couldn’t make sense of, she wanted his last impression of her to be a good one.

As Abby walked into the restaurant, she saw a tall, man sitting at the end of the bar. He had his back to her, but she recognised Henning right away. He moved slightly to the side, just enough for Abby to see that he was talking to Emma. Abby’s stomach flipped just a little and she couldn’t deny that she felt ever so slightly jealous.

Abby walked across the restaurant towards the bar, and she was half way there when she felt an arm around her waist. She looked sideways and got the surprise of her life.

“Henning!” She stopped and turned to face him. He looked better than she had remembered.

“Hello, beautiful.” He leaned down and kissed her lightly on each cheek. “Where the hell did you get that dress? You look ravishing.”

Abby smiled, and then looked over to the bar. Emma had spotted her and the man she was talking to had turned around to see who she was waving at. He looked like Henning, but a little different. Ah, she reasoned. The brother has returned.

“I thought that was you at the bar. Is that your brother?”

“Yeah. He finally showed up on Sunday at about lunchtime. His Cuban girlfriend dumped him, can you believe it? We are very unlucky in love, Nik and me. Come on, I want to introduce you.”

“That’s Emma he’s talking to, you know?”

Henning laughed. “Really? Well, that’s perfect. I wanted to meet her.” He took her by the hand, and she was grateful because she didn’t trust herself to be able to walk the rest of the way without tripping over out of nerves. She cursed herself for being so giddy but couldn’t help it. When they got to the table Emma gave her a look that said it all. Why are you blushing so furiously, Abby? Are you feeling a bit overwhelmed?

Henning introduced himself to Emma and, slapping his brother on the shoulder, introduced Abby.

“Nik, this is Abby. Abby, my little brother, Nikolaus.” Nikolaus stood up and shook her hand. When he smiled he looked exactly like his older brother, just a little less tanned.

“I’m very pleased to meet you. I’m not going to embarrass my brother and say you’re all he’s been talking about for the last few days.”

“Thanks, Nik” said Henning, his arm still around Abby’s waist, and his hand now resting on her bare lower back.

“Well, it’s nice to meet you, Nikolaus. He’s certainly told me all about you.” Abby hoped the words were coming out clearly, because she could barely concentrate with Henning’s hand lightly rubbing her back.

“Well that would have been a short conversation. What are you two drinking tonight? Emma has just tried her first glass of Carlsberg.”

“You’ve never had Carlsberg before?” asked Abby, knowing full well that she had. Emma prided herself on her encyclopedic knowledge of international beers.

“No” said Emma, looking as vague as she could pretend to look.

At that moment a waiter came over to let them know that their table was ready, and led them across the room to a round table outside on the balcony. About twenty tea-light candles illuminated the scene: flowers, wine glasses, highly polished silverware and delicate orchids placed in the centre of the table. Henning and Nikolaus pulled the chairs out for Abby and Emma to sit down. It was all very romantic, but Abby felt it wasn’t at all random.

“So, who planned all of this?” she asked, looking directly at Henning.

“I asked them to reserve a nice table for us, that’s all.” He obviously wasn’t going to admit to anything more, she thought, so she let it go. Emma and the beer, Henning and the table—everyone was pretending that nothing was going on. Abby looked over at Emma who had been completely charmed by Nik. She was flirting and batting her eyelids like a sixteen-year-old girl. Or a true professional.

Dinner was served and champagne was poured and nothing particularly remarkable happened, other than Henning’s hand resting on Abby’s knee under the table a couple of times. She subtly removed it, smiling at him as she did, hoping he would get the message that she wasn’t going to let him get too caught up in the overt romance of the setting. After dessert and coffees, Emma and Nikolaus announced they were heading for the nightclub. Abby groaned.

“Seriously? You’re going dancing?”

“Yes! You have to come!” Emma cried. “It’ll be fun!”

Emma and Abby’s long friendship had survived in spite of the fact that Abby never went dancing. She did it once, back in the early 1990s, and the combination of loud music, flashing lights and sore feet put her off for life. She and Emma had come to an agreement at the time that they would go out for dinner, they would go to the movies, they would even go bungee jumping naked, but they would never again go dancing together. This was an obvious ploy by Emma, who had clearly decided the double-date was over – she had some plans that weren’t going to eventuate if they sat there all night drinking coffee.

“No, no, you go. Have fun. I can’t dance in these ridiculous shoes anyway.” Abby winked at Emma, and the deal was done.

Henning signed the bill and charged the meal to his room. “Well, have fun you two” he said to Emma and Nik. “Watch yourself, Emma, he thinks he can dance but actually he’s quite dangerous. You might want to give him about a metre clearance.” Nik punched him playfully on the arm as they left.

“Good night, Abby. Lovely to meet you” said Nik over his shoulder, grabbing Emma by the hand and leading her out of the restaurant.

“Bye, you two!” called Abby. She gave Emma another wink and a subtle wave as they walked through the doors leading to the nightclub. When they were gone she turned back to Henning, and he immediately stepped towards her, sliding his arms around her back so that his hands rested on her bare skin. She felt goose bumps where his fingertips touched her, and that now familiar giddiness in her head. Oh dear.

“Abby …” he whispered as he leaned forward, burying his face in the hair tucked behind her ear. He breathed in, and Abby tilted her head slightly away to expose her neck a little more. She rested her hands on the back of his arms to steady herself. She took a deep breath, and stepped backwards.

“Henning, we can’t do this. We can’t.” She hated the way he kept making her feel so uncertain. It hadn’t been that long since she was insisting to Emma that there was nothing to tell. And yet here she was, creating stories and crowding her head with memories that would no doubt haunt her for the rest of her life.

“Henning, I’m married, and I realise that’s terribly inconvenient, given these magical circumstances, but I have a husband, I love him, and if I do this I don’t know if my marriage will survive.”

“He’s lucky” he said, playing with the strap of her dress.

“So am I. He’s pretty amazing. But I’m completely confused about what’s going on with him right now, and spending the night with you would just make it so much more complicated. Please, stop looking at me like that, stop touching me. Just, wait …”

She took another step back, letting go of him, but only for a moment. The light from the candles was sparkling in his eyes and accentuating his beautiful cheekbones, and the smell of his cologne was wreaking havoc with her self-control. She took a deep breath and, unable to help herself, leapt forward and threw her arms around his neck and kissed his soft, warm, coffee-flavoured lips. His arms tightened around her waist, and he was lifting her again, bringing her against his body, his mouth opening to let her in, and she responded because she simply couldn’t help it. She wanted to kiss him so desperately. Her hands found his thick wavy hair. She grabbed handfuls and pulled hard, angry at him and frustrated with herself but physically unable to make it stop. She couldn’t hear anything but his breath on her face and the fabric of her dress being crushed under his hands. There was nothing else, no other sensations, just Henning and the kiss and the warm, humid night air and the soapy, woody scent of his skin. She felt the last of her strength melt away and was so grateful that his arms were strong enough to hold her together. She had never, ever been kissed like this before. Never before in her entire life.

UNRECRUITED LOVE
A blog about the heart-breaking search for your one true job.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

Posted by Ms Love in:

Tales from the Hot Seat

– – – – – – – – – – –

 ‘Mr X, can you please tell us about a problem you have faced at work, what steps you took to overcome the problem and what lessons you learned?”

“Um, can I use an example from my personal life or does it have to be work-related?”

“Whichever example you think best demonstrates your problem solving skills.”

“OK. Well, a couple of years ago I was moving to Brisbane from Perth to start a new job and I was talking with the removals company about some of my more valuable items, namely the urn that contains my mother’s ashes. And they were pretty reluctant, you know, to pack the urn because of the significance of, you know, the contents. So they told me I should try to take it with me on the plane. But then the airline said I can’t take it on board so I should look into a courier company. So I did, but they are really expensive and I kinda didn’t want to let the urn out of my sight, you know? So then I’m thinking I might take a train instead of flying, but that was going to take too long and I had to get to Brisbane to start work. So I’m calling all these different couriers and airlines and other removals companies, trying to figure out what was going to be the cheapest, fastest solution. It took me, like, twenty phone calls. Finally I convinced the airline to let me bring the urn on as hand luggage, but I had to pack the ashes in a suitcase and check it in. They weren’t going to let me onto the plane with a box of white powder, obviously! So anyway, I got the urn on board but it wouldn’t fit in the overhead locker because of all the bubble wrap and so they had to stash it in some other part of the plane. But I got there in the end and avoided paying for excess luggage.”

The panel members sat in stunned silence until finally someone asked him to identify the lessons he had learned in trying to solve the problem.

“I guess I learned that I should’ve scattered her ashes on Cottesloe Beach.”

• • •

CHAPTER TWENTY

UNRECRUITED LOVE
A blog about the heart-breaking search for your one true job.

LAST NIGHT IN PARADISE

Posted by Ms Love in:

Tales from the Hot Tub

– – – – – – – – – – –

 Shit. Shit. Shit.

• • •

All the way home in the plane Emma kept asking about the night before, and Abby wouldn’t say a word. She decided she was going to keep the whole thing to herself, like it was a treasure that only she had discovered, that had no earthly value to anybody else. She would leave it buried there, on the island, and it would never be found. Emma was going crazy trying to prise the truth out of her friend, but Abby had promised herself, and Henning, that she would never tell a soul. It was a very, very long flight home and Abby hardly slept a wink.

Abby and Emma arrived back in Sydney on Wednesday night after eight o’clock, too late to get a connecting flight home to Canberra, so Abby had booked a twin room at one of the airport hotels. Both exhausted from the flight, and a sleepless night, they barely had the energy to talk before climbing into bed.

“You’re really not going to tell me, are you?”

“No, I’m really not.”

“I told you about me and Nikolaus!” said Emma, whining like a three-year-old.

“Yes, and it was a fabulous story, and I thank you for that.”

“I hate you.”

“You’ll get over it.”

“I can’t believe you’re being so stubborn, Abby. Why don’t you want to tell me?”

“What possible difference would it make to your life, if I told you what happened between Henning and me?”

“I would be immensely entertained for at least an hour” said Emma, deadpan.

“And then what?”

“What do you mean?”

“You know, I saw an interview with some celebrity one time, I can’t remember who it was, and she was saying that she didn’t want to reveal anything about her alleged relationship with some guy she’d been seen with, because she knew that the questions wouldn’t stop, even if she answered the one that everyone was asking.”

“Yeah, that was the girl from the Twilight movies. When she was going out with Robert Pattinson.”

“Yes! Kristen Stewart.” said Abby, remembering. “Everyone wanted her to confirm the rumours, and she just kept refusing, because she knew it wouldn’t mean the end of the stalking and the scrutiny and the paparazzi and whatever. And she would never be able to have something that nobody else already knew about.”

“I’m hardly stalking you, Abby.”

“But the principle is that same, Emma. She wanted to keep something to herself, she didn’t want everyone to know, and she couldn’t see the value in anyone knowing. Now, I’m not saying anything happened with Henning, and I’m not saying anything didn’t. I’m saying that I’m not going to tell you. And you’re just going to have to live with that.”

“That’s quite a compelling argument. I have no response to that.” Emma rolled over and started to pretend to snore, which Abby took as a sign that she was giving up.

Abby lay awake for half an hour longer. She had taken a risk with her blog, and she had taken a risk with her friendship with Emma, in not spilling the beans. Everyone was going to be angry with her for not finishing the story. But she hoped that some would understand. She felt as though she had no control over her life right now—like all the decisions were being made for her. But this was something she could control—the spread of information. She didn’t like being secretive, but for the time being it felt like the right way to go.

The next day was a Thursday and as they were boarding their flight to Canberra, Abby stopped thinking about Henning and started wondering about Patrick. She had no immediate plans to go back to their house. Emma had already told her she could stay at her place for as long as she needed to. But she knew that she would need to get in touch with Patrick very soon, and make a time to meet with him and talk about what was going on.

“So, Abby, what’s the plan?” Emma and Abby were standing at the luggage carousel, waiting for Emma’s bag to appear. “Are you coming back to my place?”

“Is that still OK with you?”

“Yeah, sure. Stay as long as you like. Sleep in my spare room, drink my wine, but for goodness’ sake don’t tell me what happened on Tuesday night, OK? Because that would just be too much.” She gave her a good-hearted dig in the ribs with her elbow. “You realise you’re killing me with this, right?”

“Yeah. Sorry.”

“No you’re not.”

“You’re right. I’m not.” Their bags came and they loaded them onto a trolley and headed for the long stay car park where Emma had left her car for the week.

“How are you feeling about talking to Patrick?”

“Fine, actually.” Abby really did feel absolutely fine. A little anxious, but mostly calm.

“And I’m guessing that’s because you know there’s no way he has got up to anything as scandalous as you got up to the other night. Am I right?”

“Em. Give up. I’m not telling.”

“Dammit.”

“I just feel like whatever happens, it will happen for a reason. I have no idea why I lost my job, or why Patrick commandeered the money, or why his mother happened to turn up at our house that afternoon or why I met Henning at the resort or why he was there and his girlfriend had just dumped him. It might all be a coincidence but it might be some divine power at work, pointing me in a particular direction, guiding me forward to who knows what. I’m just not going to lose any sleep over things I obviously have no control over.”

“Did you get your palms read or a Tarot card reading or something while we were in Thailand? Did you go and see a spiritual advisor? Because you seem awfully cool, calm and collected for somebody who was having a mild freak out just a couple of weeks ago.”

“No, I didn’t do any of that. I just can’t be bothered with all that manufactured angst anymore, you know? I don’t need any more drama and complication in my life. I feel like I’ve had fourteen days to clear my system of a bit of negativity and I want to keep it clear for as long as possible. If I start keeping myself awake at night with thoughts of Henning and what he’s doing with my money.”

“You mean, with thoughts of Patrick” said Emma, correcting her.

“Yeah, of Patrick.” Abby smiled in spite of herself.

“You’re killing me!” shouted Emma. “Just TELL me!”

“No.”

“Well then write it on your blog.”

“Yeah, that’s a good idea” said Abby, sarcastically. “Dear internet, just between you and me, guess what happened on my last night in Thailand.”

Emma groaned loudly and shot her friend a look of pure exasperation and frustration. They arrived at the car, loaded their luggage in and started heading for home.

“So if you’re not expecting to hear from Patrick until December 1st, what are you going to do with yourself for the next two weeks?”

“Oh, I’m going to need to talk to him before then. I’ll call him tonight, when he’s home from work. I’ll stay with you until the end of the month at least, and then decide what to do after that, based on the explanation he gives me tonight.”

“Are you going to go around to your place and see him?”

Abby had thought about this. She wanted to see him somewhere that was neutral, where they wouldn’t be disturbed by anyone, least of all his mother, and where they could talk about the girl on the phone and about the money. She ruled out bars and restaurants—she wanted to go somewhere quiet. Eventually, she decided that the best place to meet him would be their favourite spot by the lake, where they often went for picnics on weekends. It was quiet and relatively private, and they could sit there and talk for as long as they needed to.

“No, I was thinking I might ask him to come and meet me by the lake, at that spot near the Canadian flagpole on Regatta Point. You know that place? Where we had my birthday party that time?”

“Yeah, that’s a good spot. Nice view.”

“Yes, the view will be all-important” replied Abby, smiling. “I want to have something pretty to look at while he tells me who that girl was.”

“I’m dying to hear about it. You will tell me about it, won’t you? You’re not going to go all Twilight on me and not tell me anything. That would be very uncool, you realise.”

“Yes, Emma, I’ll tell you all about it. In fact I’m sure that my first impulse after we’ve finished talking will be to call you. You’ll be the first to know.”

“Good. At least we’ve agreed on that. I need you to tell me these things. My life is completely boring without your various shenanigans and adventures.”

“When have I ever been on an adventure?”

“You know what I mean. Your life is exciting. I am living vicariously through you, so I need you to tell me everything. Well, except that thing about Henning, obviously, but I’ll get that out of you one day, I’m sure. I have ways of making you talk.”

Abby looked over at her friend and was serious for a moment. “I’m not having fun here, Emma. I have no idea what I’m going to find out when I talk to Patrick. It might be the end of my marriage. Yes, I’m calm and composed and philosophical, but we’re still talking about my marriage. It’s not exciting for me.”

“You know that’s not what I meant.”

“I know, I’m just a bit anxious. I’m not even thirty years old. I don’t want to get a divorce. I want to figure out what is so wrong with my relationship with Patrick that I would leave him and head overseas for two weeks, or that he would completely disregard my wishes for that money—and then I want to fix it. There is something deeply, dreadfully wrong with our marriage and to be honest I’m a little bit scared about what I might discover when I start asking the pointed questions.”

“Well, I am here for you, whatever happens, you know that. Look, let’s stop trying to guess the future. Call Patrick, go and see him, do whatever you need to do in order to get to the bottom of all this. And if you still need somewhere to stay, you know you can come back here.” They arrived at the apartment and Emma drove the car into the underground car park to her reserved spot.

“Thanks, Emma. Thanks for the ride. Thanks for coming with me, and for letting me stay, and for everything. I really mean that. And I’m sorry if I let my lousy mood get the better of me.”

“Don’t worry about it. Let’s get these bags upstairs. I need a cup of tea.”

A while later, after Abby had unpacked her bag and thrown the first load of washing into the machine, she sent Patrick a text message.

I’m back. We obviously have a lot to talk about. Can you meet me tomorrow at the picnic place, at twelve noon?

He replied in less than a minute.

Yes, see you then. I’m glad you’re safely home.

“Em?” Abby called out from the spare room. “He’s going to meet me at midday tomorrow.” Abby wandered into the lounge and flopped down on the sofa opposite Emma. “I just texted him. He’s going to meet me at the lake.”

“Sounds good. As much as I would love to come and hide in the bushes to eavesdrop I’ve got a massive day of catching up at work tomorrow. You’ll have to give me a call or send me a message or something afterwards to let me know if you’re alright.”

“Sure. And now, I’m going to see what the blogosphere has to say about this whole mess.” Abby’s laptop was sitting on the edge of the sofa, plugged into a nearby outlet. “I’m bracing myself for an onslaught after that last post. I think that’s the shortest blog I’ve ever written.”

“And yet each little word was so heavily loaded with meaning. Not that you’ll ever decipher it for us” said Emma, dryly. Abby just laughed.

“Oh, my readers are a pretty savvy bunch. They’ll figure it out.”

UNRECRUITED LOVE
A blog about the heart-breaking search for your one true job.

Comments:

Claire on: Last Night in Paradise

Oh. My. God. Mr Von Hottie came back, didn’t he?

BrookeH on: Last Night in Paradise

I knew it! I knew we hadn’t heard the last of him! Ooh, I can’t stand it, what happened??

Vanessa on: Last Night in Paradise

I don’t know what to say. If it turns out that Patrick’s up to no good, then I’m happy for you. If it turns out that Patrick hasn’t done anything, then you are going straight to hell. So I hope it was fun!!

Tracey on: Last Night in Paradise

The moral high ground is a barren, soulless place. I’m not surprised you abandoned it. I’m only surprised it took you so long.

KateM on: Last Night in Paradise

If @Claire is right and Mr Von Hottie came back, then I really, really, really hope your husband isn’t reading this blog.

Mandi on: Last Night in Paradise

OK, I’m going to ask the second most obvious question. Did the brother turn up too, and did Emma get to meet him?

CHAPTER TWENTY ONE

Abby walked all the way from Emma’s apartment into the city, and then across town to the lake, a journey that took her a little over an hour. She spent the time going over what she wanted to say, and breathing calmly. She planned to approach discussion with the same mindset that she had when going to meet with aggrieved clients. She would listen carefully, ask questions to clarify, and try very hard not to take it personally. Obviously it would be near impossible not to take things personally in this instance, but she would need to manage her emotions if she was going to get what she wanted from the discussion. She wanted answers, and she wanted the truth, no matter what that might mean.

When she arrived at the flagpole Patrick was already there. He was wearing jeans and a casual top which meant that he hadn’t come from work. Abby assumed he had decided to take the morning off, perhaps the whole day which said something about how seriously he was treating the situation. She was pleased.

He watched her as she walked towards him, not taking his eyes off her for a moment. It made Abby feel strangely self-conscious and she looked down at her feet as she made her way down the grassy slope to where he was standing. As she reached him he lifted his arms and stepped forward to embrace her, and in spite of everything she was feeling she hugged him back. It felt good to start things off on a positive note.

“I’ve missed you, Abby. You have no idea how hard this has been—how awful these last couple of weeks have felt.”

Abby squeezed her eyes shut and tried to breathe normally. Hard? Are you serious? How hard do you think it has been for me, wondering about the woman in our house and the money in our bank account? She resisted the urge to challenge the assertion out loud.

“Well, I’m back now, so let’s talk.” She abruptly let him go, and sat down on the grass. She wanted to get the conversation underway, and didn’t want to get mired down in a silly game of I’ve-suffered-more one-upmanship.

“OK. Well, I want to tell you what’s going on with the business.”

Abby couldn’t believe that this was more important to him than the other thing. But then she thought perhaps it was more important, and the young woman in their house was something easily explained?

“I want you to tell me who answered the phone when I called you at one o’clock in the morning.”

“You’re right, let’s talk about that first. OK, well, it’s not what you think, but you’re still going to be pretty upset. There’s no easy way to say it.”

Abby braced herself. “Just say it, Patrick. Who is she?”

“She’s my daughter.”

Abby reeled backwards as though she had been physically struck in the face. She looked at him and started to say something but no words came out, just the sound of pure shock and disbelief.

“What?!”

“Her name is Lydia. She’s twenty years old. Her mother, Alice, and I were together for six months when we were about eighteen, when we were in Year 12, and she got pregnant. Abby, I swear to you, I had no idea that Alice had the baby. We both went to the Family Planning Clinic together to talk to a counsellor, because we were so bloody frightened, and we decided that we couldn’t keep it, so Alice was going to, you know, get a termination. She told me she had, Abby. She told me she’d had an abortion and then we broke up and then her family moved to Melbourne and I never saw her again. And then about a month ago I get a call from Alice, and she tells me about Lydia, and I freaked out.”

Abby sat completely still and silent, trying to take it all in. He had a child. He was a father. He’d known this for a month and yet he hadn’t said a word to her about it. She didn’t know which part of the whole scenario upset her the most.

“You’ve known for a month, and you didn’t tell me?! Why didn’t you tell me?” Abby was trying desperately to hold it together but she just wasn’t prepared for this kind of news. The only explanation she had been able to come up with was that the girl on the phone was his lover. Abby could not have been more wrong.

“Because I didn’t know what Lydia wanted. Alice called and said that Lydia wanted to meet me, had wanted to meet me for years, and now she was about to turn twenty-one and Alice couldn’t deny her the right to know who her father is. I wanted to talk to her and find out what she wanted before I sprung the whole thing on you.”

“So what does she want?”

“Nothing. She doesn’t want anything. She just wanted to know who I was.”

“So, what, is she going to live with us? Is that her plan?”

“No, no. She doesn’t want to live with us. She’s studying journalism at La Trobe in Melbourne. She doesn’t want to live in Canberra. Honestly, Abby, she just wanted to meet me.”

“And you swear to me, you didn’t know that she even existed?”

“I swear. I was as surprised as you. I had no idea.”

Abby laughed—an exasperated, relieved, confused kind of laugh. Patrick reached over to take her hand, and she let him. “Abby, I’m so sorry. I wanted to tell you but then you lost your job, and then the thing with the money happened, and the fight with my mother—”

“Does your mother know about Lydia?” interrupted Abby.

“I told mum and dad over the weekend.”

“How did they take it?”

“Well, it wasn’t pretty. They knew—you know—that Alice had gotten pregnant. I’d had to tell them. I didn’t know what to do. And they were furious. Like, absolutely livid. It was awful. Mum wanted me to marry her, which was ridiculous, we hardly knew each other.”

“What about your dad? What did he say?”

“Back then, you mean? Um, he was just kind of quiet. Mum did all the yelling. You know, good Irish Catholics don’t much agree with a woman’s right to choose.”

“So what did you do?”

“Well, nothing. Alice was in Melbourne and we never saw each other again. Mum didn’t speak to me for a while. Eventually we all moved on, I guess.”

“I want to meet her” said Abby finally.

“She wants to meet you, too.” Patrick smiled cautiously at Abby as he took her other hand in his. “She feels terrible about the phone call the other night. She thought it was one of her friends calling her from Melbourne. As soon as you hung up she realised what had happened. I’m so sorry, Abby. I’m so sorry to have put you through that. I was so scared you wouldn’t come home.”

“Yeah, I considered that option.”

“You did? Really?” He looked genuinely worried.

“Of course I did. Can you blame me? That was one of the worst weeks of my life, Patrick. Definitely the worst week of our marriage, don’t you think? So, yes, I did wonder about whether or not there was anything left to come home to.”

“Do you still feel like that?”

“I’m here now. I didn’t want to make any decisions about anything until I had heard the whole story from you. I’m completely relieved, obviously, that she turned out not to be some woman you were having a fling with. But it’s going to take me a minute to get used to the idea that you have a child. Well, not a child anymore—a daughter. But I’m here now, and I want to talk about everything, and I want the truth.”

“Do you want to go to counselling?”

“God, no!” Abby had no desire whatsoever to talk about her marriage to a counsellor. She got all the advice she needed and wanted from Emma and from her blog readers.

“That’s a relief, neither do I.”

“But we are going to talk about this stuff, Patrick. OK? You need to tell me what is going on.”

“I will, I promise.”

“So tell me about that other phone call, the first one, when your phone accidentally called me while you were talking to somebody else. Who were you talking to? Was it Lauren?”

“Yeah, it was.”

“What were you talking about?”

“Stuff.”

“Patrick, come on. You were talking to her about something that you didn’t want me to know about. You said ‘she’ll figure out something’s up’. What were you talking about?”

“I’m not sure.” He seemed very reluctant to talk about whatever it was, which just made Abby more suspicious. Before he could continue she reached into her pocket and brought out her phone.

“I’ve still got the message on my phone. Here, I’ll play it for you.” She switched it to speaker mode.

“… I don’t know. I thought she was just going to Emma’s for the evening … I suppose so … I don’t know how long, maybe a week … that’s not a good idea … because, well, I just think we should wait and see … yeah … no … you could come tomorrow after work … what? … yeah, it’s in the bank. I know! It’s awesome … yeah … more than enough … I’ll need to put most of it into the business, though, or she’ll figure out something’s up … what? … Oh, alright … yeah, talk to you later … me too. Bye. … Oh, shit!”

Patrick looked extremely sheepish. “Oh, wow, that sounds really bad.”

“You think?” Abby put the phone away. “So, come on, what was all that about?”

“I wanted to surprise you. You weren’t supposed to find out for another month or so.”

“Find out what?”

“Oh, jeez, I really wanted this to be a surprise. OK, the thing is, I’ve rented you some office space in the city, so you can start your own business, and work for yourself. It’s all fitted out with furniture and computers and pot plants and a stationery cupboard. You just have to decide what you want to call it so we can get the signage put up and order some business cards and letterhead. I was thinking ‘Abby O’Brien Consulting’ but you can probably come up with something more creative. I was just getting the details sorted with Lauren, you know, to make sure we could still afford to buy dad out. So, that’s what was going on. That’s the whole story.”

Abby didn’t know what to say. He had completely blindsided her with the real story. She was so convinced he was up to something she wouldn’t be happy with, but he was trying to do her a favour. She wanted to strangle him and hug him at the same time—the relief was overwhelming.

“Oh, and the thing about her coming over, and you not being there, that was just us trying to figure out somewhere to meet and talk about it where you wouldn’t be around to hear, and we couldn’t have the meeting at her office because there was some problem with the after-hours access so we were just trying to figure out where to meet.”

He wasn’t having an affair. He had a daughter, which wasn’t an insignificant development, but it was better than the alternative that Abby had been grappling with. Everything was out in the open and she couldn’t help feeling relieved that there was nothing to worry about.

“So, it’s all just been a big misunderstanding then?” said Abby. “There’s nothing going on. You’re not up to any mischief, other than setting me up with my own consultancy? Which, given my current lack of employment, is a good thing, really.” Abby’s mind was already racing ahead, making plans for the business, choosing paint colours for the walls.

“No. I would never do that to you, darling. You ought to know that.”

“I do know that, Patrick. I couldn’t really believe that you were having an affair. It just didn’t make any sense! But those phone calls were just really, really confusing.”

“Well, now you know. So, everything is alright?”

“Yes. I guess it is.”

“And are you happy about the office space, about working for yourself?”

“Of course I am! It might take a little while to build up the business.”

“That’s OK, your payout is a very healthy safety net. You won’t need to worry about turning a profit for several months at least. I’ve leased the space for six months. It’s paid for, and you can afford to hire an assistant. I’m very confident that you’ll be absolutely fine. This is what you’re good at, and once you’re working for yourself there’ll be no limit to how successful you can be.”

Abby moved closer to him so she could wrap her arms around his neck. She squeezed him tight, feeling so relieved that everything was alright. They sat like that for several minutes, just holding each other.

“I’m so glad you’re home, Abby. I missed you so much. I hated you being away, knowing that you probably thought I was cheating on you. I nearly jumped on a plane. I actually had a bag packed on the day after you phoned the house and Lydia answered. But I couldn’t do it. You needed some space, I suppose. I just hoped you would come home and we could talk about it. I couldn’t imagine that you wouldn’t at least give me an opportunity to explain.”

“I love you, Patrick. No matter what happens, we can talk about it. We’ve always been able to talk things through. There’s nothing we can’t talk about.” She looked up at him and kissed him lightly on the lips. “This is why I know we’ll be together forever. Because neither of us is ready to give up on the other.”

“I’ll never give up on you.”

“And I’ll never give up on you.” They kissed again, and Abby held his familiar face in her hands and, just as they leaned backwards together to lie on the soft, warm grass, a terrible thought popped into her head.

I need to make sure he never finds the blog.


© 2017 Patricia Smith

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher.

First edition 2017

Author’s Note

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is unintentional or coincidental.

Much of this story is set in the city of Canberra, which is my beloved home town. There are some long-standing institutions that I have used as ‘props’ in my story, but they are unwitting accomplices and the tales I tell about those institutions and the people who work there are completely made up.

Trish Smith

Trish was born and raised in Canberra, and now lives in the inner north with her husband, two daughters and two cavoodles. She is a part-time public servant and is the founder and creative director of Airpocket, an online travel goods business. In her spare time she enjoys walking, reading and staring dumbstruck at the cheese section of the Ainslie IGA. This is Trish’s first novel. More about the Author